Is ‘Death and Nightingales’ worth watching? Here’s what the reviews say

The BBC’s adaptation of Death and Nightingales recently aired in the UK.

A story of love, betrayal, deception and revenge, the three-part mini-series has been adapted by The Fall creator Allan Cubitt from the novel by Eugene McCabe.

Starring 50 Shades of Grey actor Jamie DornanDeath and Nightingales is set over a tense 24-hour period across the beautiful, haunting countryside of Fermanagh in 1885.

Watch the trailer:

The official synopsis reads: “Growing up, Beth Winters (Ann Skelly) was caught between two warring parents, her Catholic mother Catherine having married her Protestant step-father Billy when she was already pregnant by an unknown Catholic man.

“On her 23rd birthday, her mother long dead, Beth has planned to escape the claustrophobic grip of Billy and their closed community by running away with charming, mysterious Liam Ward (Jamie Dornan). But with the hour of reckoning fast approaching, can Beth hold her nerve?”

We’ve rounded up a selection of reviews for the mini-series to help you decide if you’d like to watch it:


“A perfect cast brings life to a bleak and sometimes sluggish story.” – Digital Spy


“The subject matter would be maudlin enough without the extra gloominess imposed by the production, which gives it the full Celtic chiaroscuro … Jamie Dornan’s cheekbones are more expressive than his expressions.” ★★★ – The Independent


“Everything looked stunning – a great advert for the Co Fermanagh tourist board – but despite the fiddles that clearly intended to signpost grave tension, this drama never really picked up the pace.” ★★★ – iNews


“It’s a slow-build story that promises to be thematically complex. The next two instalments will tell whether it can successfully convey the novel’s richness, or whether its curiously still atmosphere will become stifling.” – Den of Geek


Death and Nightingales looks beautiful enough, and Ann Skelly holds the centre with commendable stillness, while Rhys and Dornan embody different forms of masculinity. But for all the trappings of melodrama – stashed coin, poison, secret love trysts and one post-coital dip – it’s a bit bewitched by its own lyrical rhythms. Slow. Even ever so moderately dull?” – The Arts Desk


“This adaptation of Eugene McCabe’s novel parses politics and sectarianism in 19th-century Ireland through a divided family without being heavy-handed. It is solid entertainment for the darkening winter evenings – and the story of a country in the process of painfully dividing itself has a timeliness of its own.” ★★★ – The Guardian


“If you like your drama with a strong streak of bleak, Death and Nightingales had bleakness in abundance. If, what’s more, you like drama full to the brim with intense romance, dark history, hints of transgression and contradictory emotion – it had all of that, too.” ★★★★ – The Telegraph


Death and Nightingales is expected to air in the USA in 2019.

Eugene McCabe’s original novel is available on Amazon.